Fighting Dirty

Alan Zendell, August 26, 2022

Michelle Obama liked to say about politics, “When they go low, we go high.” It was a lovely sentiment that endeared her to millions of Americans, because it resonated with what we’d been taught to believe – nonsense cliches like “the good guys always win” and “you make more friends with honey than vinegar.” History proved time and again that good guys don’t always win, and winners care far less about how many friends they make than how well they’ve secured their power base.

When the good guys win, it’s because their backs are against the wall, and they’ve woken up to the reality that they’re fighting for their very existence. For those of us who grew up in the wake of the second world war, that was hammered home in schools, media, by Hollywood and nonstop government propaganda. It’s easy to portray conflicts as good versus evil when our adversaries are racist fascists who murder millions of innocent civilians and preach ideas like master races and genocide.

Major conflicts are not about values or morality. They’re about wealth and power. Greed, selfishness, and the lust to control other people’s beliefs and actions are what drive ideologues and far too many politicians. I love Michelle Obama’s sentiments, but she’s wrong. You can’t fight sewer rats without getting filthy, and you can’t beat adversaries with no moral compass whose only goals are wealth and power by being reasonable and nice.

Democrats and Republicans alike have been painfully slow in waking up to the reality that there was a growing movement in the United States based on fear, envy, ignorance, and belief in charismatic but entirely false ideas of right and wrong. When President Biden called the MAGA movement semi-Fascist, yesterday, he was right on.

MAGAism could have been created by Friedrich Nietzsche or George Orwell. It is based on the notion that repeating lies and deception that tap into peoples insecurities and pain will evventually take root at a visceral level. It manipulates  language, literally changing and reversing the meanings of words, and professes alternate facts (lies) that match the narrative people seeking power try to sell.

Decades of pretending that our democracy was sound and indefatigable have revealed that it is neither. The Republican Party of ten years ago no longer exists, and the Democrats suffer from a long history of lack of unity, perceived weakness, and incompetence. Joe Biden was elected president because there is a majority of Americans who believe we need a decent, moral leader who is committed to meeting the needs of average Americans, who can be trusted to defend the Constitution. He’s not perfect, but cast against the evils of MAGAism – white supremacy, xenophobia, gender inequality, autocracy, undermining elections, greed, denying basic science – he seemed to many of us to be a beacon of hope.

Amid the MAGA noise, it has gone largely unnoticed that against all odds, Biden united his splintered party and passed an impressive legacy of landmark legislation. In an era of normal politics, that would represent the natural swing of governing philosophy, that overreaching actions by either the extreme left or right invariably result in a pendulum swing in the opposite direction – the sociopolitical equivalent of seeking equilibrium. But we no longer live in an era of normal politics. Democracy is up against a movement that will stop at nothing to gain its objectives. They fight dirty, and they will use every weapon at their disposal. They lie and misrepresent, they have no regard for inconvenient laws and precedent, and only disdain for average Americans.

Biden was able to unite Democrats because they recognized that the MAGA movement was intent on destroying democracy and undermining the Constitution. They saw the result of their indecision and inaction, and a lack of willingness to fight as dirty as their opponents. MAGA states, not satisfied with extreme gerrymandering now seek partisan control of our elections, and years of quiet, insidious packing our courts with extremist, right-wing judges has resulted in a Supreme Court that ignores both precedent and the will of a clear majority of Americans. Democrats finally realize that they are fighting not only for their own power and self-interest, but for the future of American democracy.

We are at a watershed moment in our history. Biden and his newly united army will fight back with no holds barred because they must. They began by calling out the hypocrisy of MAGA members of Congress who railed against partially forgiving student loans for people trapped in an economic system whose principal goal is allowing wealthy Americans to prosper at the expense of everyone else. Each member who claimed outrage at taxpayers subsidizing the debts of low-income students had personally profited, sometimes in millions of dollars, by having COVID PPP debts completely forgiven.

Democrats are engaged in an existential end game. They will spend every day until the midterm elections bringing MAGA leaders who violated our laws to justice, calling out lies, and demonstrating to women, minorities, and hard working Americans that MAGA is not about making America great, but about undermining everything we have accomplished as a nation while seeking greatness. It’s going to be an ugly, dirty fight, but that’s what happens when the sewer rats start taking charge.

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